Monthly Archives: June 2013

Baffling neck-ache

So, despite me specifically saying that I wasn’t being hyperbolic, some people are apparently disbelieving me when I say that Lawrence the tailor is the oddest man on Earth. So, doubters, here’s a photo.


First things first, he doesn’t actually work as a janitor for Kwik-Save. He has made that coat himself. He chose the materials, including the lurid yellow accents, and constructed that bad boy for his own sartorial pleasure. Note especially the dressing gown style belt,  the huge sleeve turn-ups and the fact that beneath the coat he is wearing a powder blue onesie, also of his own design. The fact that he is carrying a bowling ball bag seems hardly worth mentioning. Especially as he has another bag on his head. Clearly, this is not a prop-forward-insulting-a-woman-who-wouldn’t-have-sex-with-him-in-a-thousand-years type bag on the head; no, this is a holdall filled with, I happen to know, trainers and bananas. So, yeah, desperately, desperately strange.

The bag on the head, though, is actually not that weird. It being filled with sports shoes and fruit is unusual, don’t get me wrong, but his choosing to transport it in that fashion is pretty standard here. On-the-head is how most things are carried in Africa. This is nice, in a way, because it’s one of the quasi-racist things you know about Africa before you get here, and it’s reassuring to know that it actually happens, and isn’t just a colonialist fabrication. See also mud huts, grass skirts and rain-making dances. It’s a bit peculiar, though, when you think about it. It isn’t necessarily odd that it happens so much here, it’s just that it doesn’t happen elsewhere. I mean, either it’s the easiest and best way of carrying stuff, or it isn’t. If it is, why doesn’t it happen in Europe? If it isn’t (and it isn’t, I mean obviously it isn’t) then why does it happen here?

I’ve seen some remarkable things balanced on people’s heads since got to Malawi. I’ve seen small girls carrying their purses up there, despite having perfectly good pockets; I’ve seen small girls carrying massive barrels of water for miles, too. I’ve seen men carrying huge bags of charcoal balanced on their heads, and women with wide trays of hard-boiled eggs. I once saw a man carrying an aluminium window frame on his head; it was huge, and must have extended fifteen feet in either direction before and behind him. He was walking along the side of the road, having a conversation with another man walking beside him. Every time he wanted to make a point to his companion he’d turn his head to look at him, and the window frame (which I guess must have come from an office building, such was it’s length,) would ponderously swing into the road, causing all the cars to veer into the oncoming traffic on the other side of the road.

Why this happens, why neck pain is better than sore arms or Swiss finishing school style posture is so important, is just one of the many, many things I don’t understand.

Anyhoo, short one this time. I think I’m going to talk about bleaking next time. Obviously, you don’t know what that is, and I’m happily going to leave you in suspense.